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Energy Prices; War Report Outdated; Operation Playground; NALEO Conference

Aired June 28, 2008 - 12:00   ET


WHITFIELD: OK, well, the numbers are just too great to ignore. Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States and both major party presidential candidates are courting them today, that's our top story. Republican John McCain spoke to the National Association of Elected Latino Officials in Washington just last hour. He was interrupted by hecklers several times. Democratic Barack Obama is speaking this hour. Let's check in now with CNN deputy political director Paul Steinhauser.
Good to see you. The all-important Hispanic vote. Both of them on the same stage, the same weekend trying to appeal to them.

PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DPTY POLITICAL DIR: Yep, and here's why. There's such an important factor this election. You know, in some crucial states that are really going to be contested like Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Latino and Hispanic voters make up a really big percentage of the population, they could swing the vote one way or the other. That's why you just saw John McCain there, just a few moments ago, John McCain wrapping up his speech.

He was talking about issues that important to Latino voters and all of us, like education, like healthcare. He was talk become the bad economic times right now and kind of took a subtle dig at his opponent; Barack Obama by saying now is a bad time to raise taxes.

He also brought up illegal immigration. And remember, Fred, he was one of the leaders in the Senate trying to push the immigration reform bill which didn't fly with conservative. He spoke about that. Here's what he had to say.


JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many Americans, with good cause, did not believe us when we said we would secure our borders. And so we failed in our efforts, not once, but twice. We must prove to them that we can and will secure our borders first while respecting the dignity and rights of citizens and legal residents of the United States.


STEINHAUSER: You know, compared to his Republican opponents in the primaries, John McCain much more moderate when it comes to combating illegal immigration. It'll be interesting to see, Fred, if it helps or hurts him in the general election. WHITFIELD: Well, it had has to be pretty painful, or at least it hurts a little bit, at least your feelings when you have people in the audience who start to heckle you. That's what happened to John McCain, just hours ago. And it was kind of -- been sequenced one after the other. You see that banner right there, "McCain equals war" guerra in Spanish, but he kept going.

STEINHAUSER: He kept going and at one time he said it's a long trip out making a joke as this woman here it took a while for her to be escorted out of the room. By my account four protesters, all against -- you know all on the war, all on the Iraq war, which is an issue where Barack Obama and John McCain definitely don't see eye-to- eye. It's happened before and it will probably happen again when it comes to John McCain.

WHITFIELD: And it looked like all of them had badges so they were bona fide guests of the conference, or attendees of the conference, it's not like these people trespassed, right?

STEINHAUSER: Exactly. You know, with the Secret Service protection, when you go to one of these events now with Barack Obama or John McCain, you have to go through a lot of security, you have to have credentials. It's not that easy to get in.

WHITFIELD: All right, Paul Steinhauser, thank you very much. Of course, we're going to continue to monitor the events there out of Washington with the Hispanic leaders conference, because John McCain spoke earlier, now this hour, we expect the Democratic presidential presumptive nominee, Barack Obama will be speaking, as well. We'll be monitoring those comments and bring them to you live. Even though that shot kind of made you a little dizzy.

All right, well, high energy price, they probably are keeping you dizzy and making you scream on a regular basis. But what's your representative on Capitol Hill doing about it? Our Brian Todd reports all action and little action.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're slowing down, even out at 100 bucks.

BRIAN TODD, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): That's just to fill his SUV with regular. Customers in Kensington, Maryland now upset with Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're not doing enough. And they know it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm pretty sure they can do better than they're doing right now.

TODD: Before the Democrats took control in 2006, Nancy Pelosi touted a common sends plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices. Back then, the price, $2.91 a gallon. Here in Congressman Chris Van Hollen's district, it's now $4.20 for regular. Now, he and the rest of Congress are about to take a week off without any tangible relief at the pump.

REP CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: We are frustrated. We're asking the American people to actually look at the substance of the proposals we're voting on in Congress and make up their own minds.

TODD: Like bills to crack down on speculators, punish price gougers and pressure oil companies to drill on land they already sit on rather than offshore. None have been passed this term. Boiled down, Republicans generally favor more drilling for domestic sources of energy. Democrats oppose that on environmental grounds. They emphasize the need for alternative fuels and want to pay for that by taxing the oil companies more. Republicans fear that will be passed on to consumers. Both sides doing more finger pointing than compromising.

SEN JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The Democratic proposals, which we've seen coming forward, involve taxation, involve litigation, and they involve regulation.

HOLLEN: At every turn, the Bush/Cheney White House and Republicans in the Congress have tried to protect the big oil companies.

TODD: At the pumps we asked, would you give Congress credit for at least trying? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I tell the government I'm trying, trying to pay my taxes, I pay increased penalties on my late taxes. But yet the government can try and try and try, and make us suffer while they're taking a week's vacation.

TODD: It hasn't been a total wash. Congress and the president get credit for a lot of stuff putting more oil into the strategic petroleum reserves, which could put more oil on the market.

(on camera): Congress also passed the law for more fuel- efficient cars, but that was back in December and clearly it wasn't enough to stem the rising tide of gas prices.

Brian Todd, CNN, Kensington, Maryland.


WHITFIELD: And the focus now in North Carolina, where a new development has taken place in the case of a pregnant soldier found dead in a motel. The "Fayetteville Observer" newspaper reports that it has received a letter from a person claiming to be the killer of Specialist Megan Touma. The letter reads in part: "I am responsible for the dead body that was found on Saturday June 21 at the Fairfield Inn." The author continues to say, "I confess that have killed many times before in several states." And that person threatens to kill again. Police say the letter was written to try to mislead them, they believe. They haven't even ruled Touma's death a homicide; however, autopsy results have not been released, either.

Well, more than a thousand wildfires are burning in California at this hour, the biggest one is in the tourist area of Big Sur. Sixteen homes have been destroyed, some 500 threatened and a 12-mile section of the Pacific Coast Highway has been closed and most of the fires are now being blamed on lightning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're recommending that you take cover somewhere and not stay in the park.


WHITFIELD: Well, it certainly sounds like and feels like chaos, there. Tornado sirens and police warnings send people that the park in Omaha, Nebraska, scrambling for cover, but that's a good thing. Minutes later it was hit by a vicious thunderstorm, trees and power lines downed, windows broken by golf ball size hail. And just next door in Iowa, the storm is blamed for deaths of two people who were killed when a tree fell on their car.

Check in with Reynolds Wolf. Boy, those are frightening scenes, and of course anyone who is anywhere near a siren to hear it, you know what to do -- or you know what it means, but you don't know always what to do.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, I know, I mean, panic sets in and that is really -- that encapsulates the reason why you really need a pain, long before severe weather hops and today may be one of those day when we could see widespread severe weather across parts of the Midwest, even south the Great Lakes, even parts of the northeast.

As it stands, Fredricka, most of it is forming now in parts of Kansas into Missouri and into Arkansas. Some of these storms fairly intense, could see some these again form for a good stretch of the United States. In fact, it's going to be this swath that stretches well over several thousand miles from just south the Great Lakes. A few pockets also into western half of the Great Lakes where you could be dealing with some strong storms and large hail, perhaps even some isolated tornados, but forget about the tornados, even straight line winds could be damaging.

Meanwhile, and speaking of other damage, we were talking about the storms here, but out West, we've been talking also about the fires. Fires could be really rough today. They've already have been very difficult to deal with in parts of Big Sur.

Big Sur, to give you an idea, is just south of San Jose, not too far from Monterey and as we drop back to just a little bit, you'll notice it's right along the coast, a beautiful location, a place where the fires continue to rage. The firefighters really do have their work cut out for them. The topography there, pretty tough to fight the fires. You've got, of course, the coastal rains, these mountains with the big ridges where the debris sends it right on through and that's going to help fan the flames in many spots. I believe, the last we heard it was about three percent contained. So, no doubt it's going to be a rough weekend out there. One batch of many, many fires we've been seeing, not just in California, but also in spots like Colorado, Arizona, a busy weekend for firefighters. Let's send it back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much. I have a nonweather- related question for you.

WOLF: Sure.

WHITFIELD: Do you like tomatoes?

WOLF: I like food.

WHITFIELD: Had you refrained from eating because you are worried about the whole salmonella thing?

WOLF: I have. I have held back a little bit, but you know, if there's, you know, hey.

WHITFIELD: Eat anything.

WOLF: There you go.

WHITFIELD: All right, well this story might comfort you. This one coming up, Federal health official are wondering if something else other than tomatoes that was actually making people sick. Looking into what they call "other ingredients" and checking warehouses to see if the contamination might be coming from there. So far, 810 people in 36 states have become ill. And many of them were blaming those tomatoes.

Well, overseas now, to the fight against the Taliban. Pakistan's army today it says launched a major offensive against the suspected Taliban militants. The attacks are underway in the volatile northwest near the border with Afghanistan. It is the biggest military push in Pakistan's tribal region since its new civil government took power back in March.

And in Washington, congressional leaders now have the Pentagon's first-ever report card on the Afghan war, but the assessment is already out of date. Our CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SE PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The congressionally mandated report card evaluates progress in Afghanistan through April, so it doesn't take into account the latest upsurge in violence, for instance, it touts Khowst, a former Taliban stronghold along the Pakistan border as a triumph whose successes are being applied elsewhere.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Khowst was an example of the successful encounter insurgency.

MCINTYRE: Notice the past tense. This week Defense Secretary Robert Gates also used Khowst as an example of how Pakistan's past agreements with local tribal leaders have undermined U.S. success by providing sanctuary for insurgents crossing back and forth at will. GATES: The pressure was taken off of these people and -- and these groups and they, therefore, have been more free to be able to cross the border and create problems for us.

MCINTYRE: While out of date before its delivery to Capitol Hill, the Pentagon report acknowledged the obvious, that Taliban regrouped and has coalesced into a resilient insurgency and it predicted accurately that the Taliban is likely to increase the scope and pace of its attacks in 2008.

So far in June, 40 troops from the U.S. and its allies have been killed in Afghanistan, the highest monthly toll of the war. The commander in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan also points a finger at the safe areas in Pakistan.

MAJ GEN JEFFREY SCHLOESSER, CMDR U.S. AFGHANISTAN FORCES: I think both sides understand that the relative sanctuary that is achieved along that border area is damaging to both Afghanistan, as well as, to Pakistan. And I think that both sides understand that that cannot continue.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. sees as heartening that Pakistan's new government has put chief of staff, General Kayani, a highly regarded military man, in charge of regaining control over the ungoverned tribal region.

(on camera): Overall, the Pentagon report is a mixed bag, citing progress, but tempering the praise with warnings. For instance, it says the effort to develop a reliable Afghan police force is hindered by corruption and a lack of foreign trainers. While the effort to curb the opium trade, which funds and fuels the insurgency, is deemed to be an outright failure.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


WHITFIELD: And take a look at this. Doesn't this make you just want to go outside and play? Well, apparently play does indeed have healing powers. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the newest piece of real estimate in New Orleans, where fun is the best medicine. Here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: All right, well imagine this, the icy North Pole without ice. Tough to imagine. Well, one-leading scientist says that's what they're facing. This summer it would be first time ever for a complete melt at the North Pole.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supposed to be ice at north pole. The fact that we may not have any by the end of this summer could be quite of a symbolic change. Things are happening pretty quick up there.


WHITFIELD: OK, that's pretty scary but don't panic just yet. There is really only a 50/50 chance for an iceless North Pole this year, they say. That's bad enough, but scientists have found the ice that is there is thinner than it has been in years past. So, that makes conditions right for the melt. But again, no guarantee that it will.

All right, well, if you build it, they will come. We're talking about playgrounds, now. Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Metairie, Louisiana, this morning. He's a lead surgeon on "Operation Playground."

Oh, I'm so glad to see that you've got a little helper who I know is really a big helper.

DR SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because, you know, you were asking me a lot about the chief architect, if you will, of this particular playground, and Jordan, who is eight years old, who is going to go into the third grade in the Fall, was asked to actually draw what she thought would be the ideal playground. Is that what happened?


GUPTA: And how did you come up with this? What were you thinking about?

JORDAN: I just started drawing.

GUPTA: Started drawing. Where there anything in particular that you wanted?

JORDAN: Yeah, like just -- planes and stuff.

GUPTA: Lt me ask you this. How's it looking? Is this at all what you expected?

JORDAN: Uh-huh.

GUPTA: Yeah? You are surprised how fast they're working.


GUPTA: I'm surprise, too. I mean, this is few hours now into things and this was just a sort of a level pile of mud not that long ago and you can already see how much work is actually being done.

So, what do you think? Would you come here and play.


GUPTA: Do you have friends around this neighborhood who come to the areas like this?

JORDAN: No, not really. I don't really go to this playground that much because I don't go to this playground. I'm just helping out.

GUPTA: All right, well, I think a lot of people appreciate you're helping out for sure. You know, this is about 10,000 people in this neighborhood are going to use a playground like this which is exactly what the point was -- 10,000 which is...


GUPTA: Think about that for a second. Yeah, this was an area that was completed redevastated after the hurricane and the subsequent flooding water. If you can imagine it was five feet high. So, we're sitting down, so the water was over our head as things stood for some time and now it's going to be this testament to the volunteers in this area, hopefully building this playground, it's going to last a long, long time. And Jordan, while she's being modest, actually had a lot to do with it.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's so cool. So, so many folks got involved with this, not just community leaders and the kids there, but a KaBOOM!, which is known for helping to build playgrounds across the country, as well as CNN had this partnership to get in there and try to build something magnificent and there you have it, it's almost ready to go. And you guys are actually putting in the sweat hours, too, right?

GUPTA: It is hot out here, I will tell you that for sure. And I'll also tell you that the non-profit KaBOOM!, they're amazing partners. You know one of -- they were telling me that one of their goals is to see to it that every child has a playground within walking distance at some point in the future. That's a pretty remarkable if you think about that and as much as we talk about child obesity, it's one thing to talk about it but it's another thing to actually give kids a safe place to play, a safe place to go and actually to get active. If you build it, they will come, that's what we've been saying all morning, kids will come here, even Jordan, she's going to come here and play here, I'm sure. Right? Yes, she will. But, you could see all of the hard work that's going into this and I guarantee within the next few hours we're going to have something almost completed to show you.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's cool. So, they will cool and they will play. What a great combination. All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta -- oh, go ahead.

GUPTA: No, I was just going to say, that's really -- you know, we wanted to put our money where our mouth was in terms of actually getting something like this done. You know, we talk about the child obesity epidemic all of the time, this is probably one of the most satisfying things that I've done, as a journalist, to actually do something about it, as opposed to just talking about it. So, we're thrilled with it.

WHITFIELD: Oh, that's cool. (INAUDIBLE) good medicine, Sanjay.

All right, well, appreciate it. Thanks so much. And of course because we can't get enough of Sanjay Gupta, you'll get a chance to see him next Sunday, where he is hosting a special that you just don't want to miss. "UNICEF Survive Project: One Child at a Time." Dr. Sanjay Gupta, along with actress Lucy Liu who is taking on a new role. You're used to seeing her in "Charlie's Angels" and "Ally McBeal." Well now, she is playing the role of an U.N. ambassador, a goodwill ambassador. And recently I spoke with both of them about how they came about this project and what you can expect to see next Sunday.

All right, and then take a look right now, this is the nation's capital and first it was Republican John McCain talking to the National Latino's Conference, now it's Democrat Barack Obama. In a moment we're going to listen in and you will too on exactly what he's saying to the very crucial Latino voters.


WHITFIELD: Republican John McCain spoke last hour and now it's Democrat, Barack Obama's turn there, in Washington, D.C., the NALEO conference, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed officials. Let's listen in.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said that he wouldn't even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote.


Now, if we're going to solve the challenges we face, we can't vacillate, we can't shift depending on our politic. You need a president who will genuine solutions day in and day out in a consistent way. And that's my commitment to you. We need immigration reform that will secure our borders and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor, but we also need -- we also need reform to finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows, requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens, putting them on a pathway to citizenship, that has to be one of our priorities, as well.


And I say it now and I will say it after I am president.


We -- (speaking foreign language) -- we must assert -- we have to assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of loss. That's a priority that I will pursue for my very first day. And we can do something more, we can tear down the barriers to keep the American dream out of reach for so many Americans. We can end the housing crisis and create millions of new jobs. We can make sure that the millions of Latinos who are uninsured get the same healthcare that I get as a member of Congress. We can improve our schools and stop the high Latino dropout rate and recruit teachers to come to hard -- hard to teach communities and make college and community college affordable for anybody who wants to go. And we can finally stand alongside our brave Latino fighting men and women and all of our soldiers and make sure that we are serving them as well as they are serving us. We have to treat our veterans with the honor and respect that they deserve and nobody has been contributing more to these wartime efforts than the Latino community and I'm grateful for it.


We can do all of this, but I can't do it all on my own. I have to have your help. This election could well come down to how many Latinos turn out to vote. I'm proud, my campaign is working hard to register more Latinos and bring them into the political process, because I truly believe that if we work together and fight together and stand together, this Fall, then you and I together, not only will we change registration roles, not only will I win the presidency, but we are going to change the political map, we're going to change it from top to bottom. We will create the kind of empowerment in your communities that we have not seen, ever, in this United States of America. We will change this country and we will change the world and I'm looking forward to being a partner with NALEO in making that dream come true. Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you, thank you.


Senator, we wanted to make the most of your time with us, and we have some prepared questions.

OBAMA: Yes, you look strict in terms of time, I can tell.



OBAMA: I could tell I was going long.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first question for you is from the alderman from the city of Chicago, Illinois, the honorable Rey Colon.


OBAMA: Now, I have to say that this is kind of fixed, because this guy is a longtime friend of mine, but go ahead, ask the questions.

REY COLON, CHICAGO ALDERMAN: All right, many Latinos are living through our nation's mortgage crisis. Their family and friends have either lost their homes or about or can't make payments on them. Every day they also face the challenge in meeting the growing cost food and fuel. As president, what will do you to ensure that the working middle-class Americans can realize the American dream? (INAUDIBLE)

OBAMA: Well, let's start on housing, because so much of what's happening in our communities and the decline of the economy is because of the housing crisis. It's also part of the reason why the unemployment rate among Hispanics is higher than the national average by a significant amount because so many people were working in construction.

We have to stabilize the housing market and Latino communities, as well as the African community, is particularly hard hit when it comes to foreclosures. So, I am very supportive and have been working actively to promote legislation, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd have been working on. It's a very simple concept that we have the FHA and the federal government step in and help the negotiations between borrowers and lenders so that people who have been making their payments, but are at risk of losing their homes that they can stabilize with a 30- year mortgage and we can finally stabilize the housing market. That is going to have a powerful impact all across the country.

Now, we have to crack down on predatory lenders and have better regulation to make sure...


To make sure that this problem is not one that continues on into the future and making sure that credit markets and banks are operating in an honorable way in our communities is critically important and I know a lot of you, locally, are working on those issues. That's step number one.

Step number two: I think that now is the time for us to provide an additional tax stimulus to help, not only get the economy going, but help provide some relief to the local families. So, what I've said is let's give another round of tax relief a couple hundred dollars in people's pockets to absorb rising cost of gas and food and I want a permanent thousand-dollar tax cut for every family to offset their payroll tax, because, the truth is that, even before this recession, working families were not benefiting from a growing economy. Most of it was going to the wealthiest Americans, it wasn't going to your constituents.

And that's something that I think has to be reversed because our economy grows best when it grows from the bottom up. When the janitor, when the teacher, when the bus driver, when the construction worker, when they're making decent money and able to support their families, then everybody does well. So, this tax cut is designed to help tilt the playing field in favor of work and not just wealth.

Third thing: infrastructure. Now's the time for us to reinvest in rebuilding our roads and our bridges, our schools, a lot of schools, because of the growth in Latino population, are way overcrowded. If we start a major construction and infrastructure program all across the country, that can put people back to work who've been laid off as a consequence of the housing crisis, it will strengthen our economy and it makes us competitive over the long term.


OBAMA: No. 4, universal healthcare. Your constituents are more likely to be uninsured. You've got people who have two, three jobs and still don't have health insurance. I've put forward a plan that says if you've got health insurance, we're going to lower your premiums by $2,500 per family per year. And if you don't have health insurance, you can buy a health care plan, similar to the one that I have as a member of Congress, and we will subsidize you if you can't afford so that everybody has good quality care, especially preventive care.

There shouldn't be any child in a barrio, or inner city anywhere across the country, who is going to an emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma. They should be able to go to a regular doctor and get a decent check-up. And that will be cheaper for us in the long term and provide some families relief.

Finally, long term, two things that we've got to work on. One is energy. Gas prices are killing folks. But the only way we're going to bring gas prices down long term is to invest in renewable energies: solar, wind, biodiesel, new technology for automobiles.


OBAMA: We're slating $15 billion a month on that front.

And something that all of you know, and that's education. If we are not able to get our young people graduating from high school and going to college, they're not going to succeed in this 21st century economy. And the talent that exists in the Latino community is there. The aspirations are there. But the resources have to be there as well.

That's why I've put forward a $4,000 tuition credit, every student, every year to be able to go to a college, will make community college essentially free. And every student who gets out of college, if they want to go -- or if they --once they get out of high school, if they want to go to a technical college or they want to go a four- year university, we are going to provide them the scholarships to make sure that that happens. That's the long-term recipe for economic success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Our next question's from the honorable Pauline Medrano. She's a city council member from Dallas, Texas.


PAULINE MEDRANO, CITY COUNCIL MEMBER, DALLAS, TEXAS: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH). Latinos are -- care deeply about protecting our country. They're proud of their sons and their daughters in the military who are defending this great country. However, they fear that ineffective military spending is preventing us from meeting such vital needs as education, healthcare, or repairing our nation's infrastructure.

As one Latino voter said, "we've got bridges falling apart throughout our country, but we are building brand-new bridges in Iraq."

Senator, how will you, as president, ensure that we can both adequately protect our national security and address our domestic challenges?

OBAMA: It's a great question. Step No. 1, we have to bring the war in Iraq to a respectable, responsible, and honorable end. And that is going to be one of my top priorities as president of the United States of America.


OBAMA: And I -- and as I said earlier, nobody has borne the brunt of service and casualties more than the Latino community. And our troops -- our troops have done a magnificent job. They've done everything that's been asked of them. But this war was ill conceived from the start. We are now there. And so, we have to get out in a responsible way.

But it is very important for us to say to the Iraqis, you have to stand up and protect your own country. We will provide you help. But we are not going to have an occupation of 10 years, or 20 years or 100 years. We can't afford it. And our military families and our military self is being strained to the breaking point.

Then, some of those resources are going to have to be devoted to Iraq -- to Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan has actually been worsening its situation over the last several years and we've got to bolster our troops and our efforts there. And even if we do that and we also start paying for the rebuilding of our military, both in terms of troop strength and equipment that's going to be required, there's still going to be money left over for us to invest in our infrastructure.

And so, I've proposed a $60 billion infrastructure reinvestment bank that would work with local officials all across the country to identify critical projects that have to be done. Our infrastructure ranks -- the American Association of Engineers gave our infrastructure a grade of D. Roads, bridges, waterways, the locks and dams and levees that we've been seeing strained to the breaking point in places like Iowa and along the Mississippi, we've got to rebuild those.

The thing is, if we rebuild them using some of the resources that are currently going to Iraq, we're spending $10 billion to $12 billion there, if we rebuild infrastructure here, not only does it put people back to work right now, not only does it stimulate our economy right now, but it makes us competitive in the long term.

One last point I want to make though, and that is, we have to treat our veterans better. You know, when I go down to --


OBAMA: You know, when I go down to south Texas and find out that veterans are having to drive two, three hours just to get into a V.A. facility because there's no V.A. hospital down along the border areas, when you go down to Puerto Rico and find out that veterans there are not getting the same services as veterans in the 50 states, then you know we're betraying what I think is a solemn pact that we make with our veterans. My father served in World War II. And when he came home, he got the services that he needed. And that includes, by the way, post- traumatic stress disorder. So many young people are coming back with mental health issues and because we don't deal with them as effectively and as swiftly as we should, that's why we've got homeless populations among veterans that are astronomically higher than the regular population and that's something that we cannot accept and I'm going to need your help to make sure that we fight to make sure every veteran gets the services that they need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Senator.

Our next question is going ...

WHITFIELD: All right, receiving a lot of applause. How will it translate into votes come November? Barack Obama's there at NALEO, this is a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Conference taking place there in Washington.

He touched on a number of things, not just immigration reform, but he also talked about the notion of punishing employers who exploit immigrant labor. He talked about putting people on a pathway to citizenship. He also broadened it out to talk about renewable energy, and also reallocating federal funds and spending as well.

So, immigration reform, the economy, the Latino vote, McCain versus Obama, all of that. We're going to explore that coming up with XM Radio's managing editor Rebecca Roberts. She's going to be joining us to talk a little bit more about what next for these candidates.


WHITFIELD: All right, both John McCain and Barack Obama spending a good part of today trying to appeal to the Latino vote at the convention in Washington, D.C., the NALEO convention.

Watching every moving part of this convention and the whole race to the White House '08 as a whole, XM Radio's channel called POTUS '08 and of course, one of the managing editors as well as one of the hosts of a program that is monitoring this whole election season called "1600," you know that to be the address of the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Rebecca Roberts, joining us now out of Washington. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: All right, well, there's so much to talk about because a lot has happened this week but particularly today. Let's talk about how these two candidates are courting the Latino vote by making a pretty bold move by going to this NALEO conference and saying, OK, immigration reform is certainly something that is top of the list, but we too have different approaches. Would either one have scored more points than the other today? ROBERTS: Well, it was interesting the different styles. Senator McCain laid out his policy positions and obviously, the questions from the audience were planned in advance. So, I'm sure he expected something about whether he would still support a path to citizenship. He never used that phrase, "path to citizenship."

He talked about treating currently here illegal immigrants in a humane way and he reiterated that he felt that the reason his attempts at comprehensive immigration reform had failed in the past were because Americans didn't believe that the border was secure.

So, he was couching his change of influence about border security first and then some sort of humane, unnamed treatment of currently here immigrants. Of course, Senator Obama catches that as a flip- flop, that he no longer supports the path of citizenship that he once championed.

Senator McCain never asked for anyone's vote, which I thought was sort of interesting. He took this more as a policy platform than a campaign rally.

Senator Obama --

WHITFIELD: Well, he's like he also -- and he also tried to use the fact that he has represented Arizona for so long.


WHITFIELD: Very heavy on Spanish-speaking there, but it was just at that juncture when a couple folks decided to seize on the opportunity and heckle him. I couldn't understand everything that was being said, but we did see one banner which said in Spanish, "McCain equals war."

ROBERTS: Yes, he was interrupted by hecklers twice. He's gotten pretty used to that by now. He handles it pretty coolly. But he started out -- it was interesting. He talked a lot about gas prices and mortgage issues and the general kitchen table issues that all voters are worried about this campaign. He didn't come out and specifically give a Latino message in some, you know -- he didn't speak in Spanish. He didn't talk specifically about immigration right off the bat.

WHITFIELD: OK, well let me ask you this before we let you go. Yesterday was a big moment, at least for the Democrats in Unity, Vermont, saying, we indeed, as a party, are unified, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama coming together. While the party may be unified, are the voters in the party unified?

ROBERTS: Yes, well Unity, New Hampshire, was of course gimmicky. It's got the hookie (ph) name, 107 votes for both candidates in the primary. But truth is most polling shows Senator Obama getting 78, 80 percent of the Democratic vote. And considering how many more Democrats there are than the Republicans in this country, that's enough. Senator McCain getting 80, 82 percent of the Republican vote, but he actually ... WHITFIELD: Yes.

ROBERTS: ...needs more like 90 percent because there are fewer Republicans. So, the current polling shows that Senator Obama's doing just fine among his own party.

WHITFIELD: Yes, OK. All right, Rebecca, thanks so much. My first time talking to you. It's been a pleasure.

ROBERTS: Well, thanks so much for having to me.

WHITFIELD: You know, and I have to wonder, I mean, I guess this was kind of destined for you to talk politics given that this runs in your family. Your mom, Cokie Roberts for starters. Do you guys talk politics all the time? Did you growing up?

ROBERTS: All the time.

WHITFIELD: All the time.

ROBERS: We have no imagination in my family. You would think someone would become a brain surgeon or something, but it wasn't to be.

WHITFIELD: Oh well, I'm sure it's fun too at the same time.


WHITFIELD: All right, thanks so much, Rebecca Roberts ...

ROBERTS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: ...XM Radio's POTUS '08 and 1600, that's the program.

All right, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on guns this week. Now, it's time for our legal team to weigh in on the Supreme Court. I know they can't wait. Much more straight ahead.



VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN INTERNET CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A touch of Madrid and a dash of France, the best of both worlds is what you may find in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

PETER FISH, SUNSET MAGAZINE: Santa Fe is a very old city. It dates back to the 1600s and there's a lot of historic architecture, you know, the big churches and things that really go back that far.

DE LA CRUZ: From eclectic artwork to exquisite restaurants, the city boasts a European flare.

FISH: The Santa Fe art scene is as good as a lot of places in Europe. You have the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. You've got some other good, more classical museums. But if you don't feel you can afford to go to France this year, there's also a really good place, Cafe Paris. Terrific French foods, wines and a real sense of being on the left bank of something.



WHITFIELD: All right, before going to recess, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year ban on handguns. Let's see what our legal guys have to say about all this.

Avery Friedman is a civil rights attorney and law professor. Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: And Richard Herman is a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor. Good to see you as well.


WHITFIELD: All right, so let me begin with you, Avery. Why does this ruling really only apply to D.C.?

FRIEDMAN: Well, very simply, Justice Scalia speaking for the majority. A fractous 5-4 decision, by the way. Basically said look it, the District of Columbia, those people who want to carry guns may under the second amendment. The court was very clear that this only applied to the District and so what now's on the horizon, Fred, is going to be whether or not this will apply to state and local governments. That's the next big battle here.

WHITFIELD: Well, Richard, doesn't it inevitably do that?

HERMAN: Yes, I respectfully disagree with my friend over there. I think this is going to be a broad sweeping decision. I think every state will rely on it right now. There's a distinction between banning and regulation and that's what the court brought up here. Justice Scalia also commented that this was the first in-depth examination by the Supreme Court of the second amendment. It's not all-inclusive. It'll be molded over the years to come.

FRIEDMAN: That's right.

HERMAN: But you know, this was a great decision, I think.

WHITFIELD: So already, we're finding that the NRA has filed cases in the Chicago area as well as San Francisco ...


WHITFIELD: ...based on this very decision. And so certainly, they're going to use D.C. as the precedent. So, it would seem that this is going to be a cakewalk for them in their cases in court.

FRIEDMAN: Oh, no, no. I don't agree with that, Fredricka. WHITFIELD: No?

FRIEDMAN: No, I think what Justice Scalia said is look it, we're applying it to federal citizens. We are not incorporating a state and local government, that's what the NRA is going to argue. It's no cakewalk. It's going to be a battle. I don't think that this is really -- this is only the beginning of the battle. Much more remains to be done here.

WHITFIELD: All right, another pretty significant case that the U.S. Supreme Court dealt with and we're talking about child murder does not necessarily mean that it is fitting of the death penalty. Why not, Richard?

HERMAN: Rape, it's rape, Fred.


WHITFIELD: Child rape.

HERMAN: And the thing is -- is the court said that they're not going to make akin the rape of a minor the same thing as the intentional first-degree murder of a person. The court's not willing to extend the death penalty there. The court relied upon the fact that, since 1964, there has not been the death penalty issued to anyone in a crime other than first degree, intention of murder.


HERMAN: That there's only a limited number of states and that there's issues of reliability with child testimony. The fact that they can be coached and the court was just -- it's another 5-4 decision, Fred, a very difficult decision.

FRIEDMAN: Another 5-4 and the last important piece of this ...


FRIEDMAN: that they are saying, look it, 5,700 child rapes a year. Which one of these do we put to death? The Supreme Court used the word "freakish" ...


FRIEDMAN: violated the eighth amendment corporeal (ph) punishment.

WHITFIELD: So subjectivity.


WHITFIELD: The subjectivity is at issue.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly right.

HERMAN: 3,300 inmates on death row. Only two, these two in this case were facing death penalty for the crime other than first-degree murder.

FRIEDMAN: A close call, Fredricka, close call.

WHITFIELD: It sure was. All right, well it looks like we're going to see a lot of that at the Supreme Court.

FRIEDMAN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Because we've been seeing that pattern.

FRIEDMAN: We'll see what happens in November.

WHITFIELD: All right, Avery and Richard, thanks so much, always good to see you.

FRIEDMAN: See you soon. Take care.

HERMAN: Bye (ph) Fred, have a good day.

WHITFIELD: More of the NEWSROOM -- thank you. NEWSROOM straight ahead.


WHITFIELD: Mystery in Africa, who killed one country's national treasures, six mountain gorillas.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was as if the best of Africa, the most dignity that they could assemble in the face of tragedy was present in this procession.


WHITFIELD: Oh, that is so hard to watch but it's an astounding story. And you don't want to miss it coming up at 3:00 Eastern time today, the manhunt for the gorilla killers.